The 10 Best Nintendo 3DS games

Nintendo 3DS may not be the number one handheld on the market anymore, but it has an amazing library of games.


The Nintendo 3DS was another example of how Nintendo has a stranglehold on the portable console market. The 3D effect with no glasses was a unique idea at a time where 3D televisions were starting to go out of production. Many people might have played with the feature off, but the 3DS was a significant step in mobile gaming. Nowadays, the Nintendo Switch has made it hard to justify playing the 3D, but there is still quite a treasure trove of games on the portable console. Here are the top 10 games throughout the Nintendo 3DS’ life.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D

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When it initially released in 1998, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was considered one of the greatest video games ever made. Even today, it still lives on in many gamer’s hearts, and the remaster for Nintendo 3DS might be the definitive way to play the classic.

All character models and environments received major upgrades while still delivering fun gameplay and that traditional Zelda adventure feel. Seeing Link’s progression from the only boy in Kokiri Forest without a fairy to the Hero of Time is a story that will forever live in the hearts of Zelda fans.

The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D

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With Ocarina of Time getting a remaster that was so well received, it only made sense for its sequel, Majora’s Mask, to get the same treatment. Like the former, character models and environments were upgraded to the then-standards for mobile gaming without sacrificing its creepy story and great gameplay.

The story follows Link, who is on the look for his fairy friend Navi from Ocarina of Time. On his journey, he crosses Skull Kid, who is being controlled by the evil Majora’s Mask and has set the moon to crash into Termina in three days. Luckily, Link still has the Ocarina of Time with him and can control time to ensure his ability to travel to all areas of Termina and grab masks that change up gameplay and Link’s form in some cases.

Shovel Knight

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There is no better example of a kickstart or indie success than Shovel Knight. Released in 2014, Shovel Knight has you take control of the titular character on a quest that calls back to classic 2D platformers. The gorgeous pixel graphics are accompanied by a nostalgic soundtrack that sets the tone beautifully for each level. The gameplay is very reminiscent of the NES Ducktales title where Shovel Knight can bounce around the screen using his trusty weapon. While playing, you collect treasure and can find several upgrades that transform the game in a way that ensures your time with Shovel Knight is never monotonous and always fresh.

Super Mario 3D Land

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You cannot have a list of Nintendo without a Mario game being mentioned. Super Mario 3D Land was the first Mario game released for the handheld console in 2011 and an obvious experiment for Nintendo before they would make Super Mario 3D World for the Wii U two years later.

3D Land was a merger between classic 2D side-scrolling games in the series and the more modern 3D platformers like Super Mario Galaxy. Story-wise it’s the same old song and dance. Bowser kidnaps Peach, and Mario saves her. This game also reintroduced the classic tanooki leaf and suit power-ups that were last seen in Super Mario Bros 3 for NES.

Animal Crossing: New Leaf

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Animal Crossing: New Leaf saw you become the mayor of a town filled with animals. As with other games in the mainline Animal Crossing series, your job is to live a life in your new town. You can explore, interact with villagers, customize your living space, and perform several activities, including fishing, bug catching, and more. There is no end goal in Animal Crossing besides enjoying your new life as mayor of a town filled with colorful characters.

Mario Kart 7

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Most Mario Kart games are some of the most popular games released on each Nintendo console, and Mario Kart 7 is no different. This time around, karts could drive underwater and sprout out air gliders for certain jumps. These two features both returned in Mario Kart 8, and it is hard to think of future games not bringing them back as well.

If you have played any Mario Kart game before, you know what you are getting into with Mario Kart 7. Besides the gliding and underwater driving, much of the well-known gameplay has returned. Blue shells still blow up the person in the first place, lightning bolts still shrink the racers in front of you, and classic red shells, bananas, and mushrooms return as well.

Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D

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Donkey Kong Country Returns initially made its presence known on the Wii but was completely rebuilt to be played in its entirety on the 3DS. Highly inspired by the Donkey Kong Country games of the SNES days, DKCR featured more than 70 levels filled with banana collecting, mine cart rides, and barrel blasting. This game was a return to form for Donkey Kong that was badly needed for the franchise.

Super Smash Bros for 3DS

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One of the biggest surprises of the Nintendo 3DS was that there was a completely playable Super Smash Bros game specifically for the handheld. Developed alongside the Wii U game, Smash for 3DS featured the biggest roster in the series (at the time) and had outlines on characters to ensure no issues seeing your fighter on a smaller screen. Playing this iconic franchise while on the go is a great experience if you do not have Smash Ultimate on the Switch. What many would expect to be a game that would have to deal with compromises is surprising a very solid experience.

Fire Emblem Awakening

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Fire Emblem Awakening is the game that might have saved the Fire Emblem series. At the point of its release, Fire Emblem had dwindling numbers, and Nintendo was planning for Awakening to be the final game in the series. After the game sold the best in the series overseas, Nintendo changed their mind and has led to releases like Fire Emblem Fates and Fire Emblem Three Houses.

Fire Emblem Awakening was the friendliest game in the series to newcomers at the time of its release. It added an option to remove permadeath that would make it hard for beginners in the series to stay tuned into the game. With the game being a turn-based tactical role-playing game, your army members are vital to your success. As with other games In the series, you can build relationships with your army, which will improve their bonuses in battle. Fire Emblem Awakening is a deep tactical RPG, especially when the fact that it is on a mobile device. Any fan of this style of game needs to give it a try.

Metroid: Samus Returns

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Near the end of the Nintendo 3DS’ life, a remake of Metroid II: Return of Samus was released called Samus Returns. While Nintendo released more games for the console before finally giving way to the Switch, Samus Returns was the last great game released for the 3DS.

Samus has been sent to the Metroid homeworld to wipe out the parasitic aliens. With the original game being on the Game Boy Color, plenty of improvements were made aside from the immediate graphical update. A melee counterattack was added, as well as the ability to freely aim at any angle (as opposed to certain angles), and new Aeion abilities that rely on her energy gauge. This specific Metroid game might not have been highly asked for the remake treatment, but Nintendo did a great job making this game up to current standards.

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