The Nintendo 3DS celebrates its fifth year on the market this year. The handheld has felt the decline of “on-the-go” gaming as mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones have sunk their teeth into Nintendo’s most profitable market. While sales remain healthy and there will always be a place for dedicated gaming handhelds, the reality is that the 3DS will never attain the sales success the DS enjoyed. This is unfortunate because the 3DS offers a vast and varied lineup of games to suit everyone’s tastes. The following are 10 games that must be experienced.
10. Bravely Default
Once upon a time, the market was so oversaturated in Japanese role-playing games (known as JRPG’s) that the public eventually soured on their repetition. The JRPG genre went a long time without a truly classic turn-based game, at least until Bravely Default arrived in 2012. Drawing from job-based combat systems present in Square-Enix titles such as Final Fantasy V and Final Fantasy Tactics, Bravely Default is a trip down nostalgia lane with contemporary additions allowing the game to feel fresh and new. The unique mechanics introduced here are “Brave” and “Default.” These two options allow you to have multiple attack moves per turn or remain free to act with the option to heal or defend yourself. The mechanic is so ingenious in presenting tactical decisions during every battle that the combat overshadows the excellent plot, humor, music, and atmosphere of the game, which is by no mean’s a bad thing!
9. Mario Kart 7
The racing phenomenon known as Mario Kart first debuted on the Super Nintendo in 1992. The game was so influential that it spawned dozens of mascot racing games vying to copy Mario Kart’s successful formula, though none succeeded with the same flair (save maybe Crash Team Racing on the PS1) that Nintendo’s flagship racer accomplished. Mario Kart has appeared on every Nintendo console since the Super Nintendo and is always a well-polished experience. Mario Kart 7 returns Mario Kart to its roots with coins scattered on the course influencing a kart’s speed and a single-player difficulty level reminiscent of the original. However, multiplayer is where the game shines and with full online functionality, Mario Kart 7 is a must-own title. Hopping into a match is instant and fits the portable nature of the handheld. Mario Kart 7 is very easy to pick up for moments at a time to enjoy a hectic race or a competitive battle.
8. Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy Curtain Call
Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy Curtain Call is the fan service every Square-Enix fan has been looking for. With 221 songs spanning 26 Final Fantasy titles and an additional 100 songs available via DLC, many of which appear from other Square-Enix titles such as Chrono Trigger and Romancing SaGa, there is no shortage of content in Theatrhythm. A sequel to the 2012’s original Theatrhythm, Curtian Call requires you to create a party of four characters taken from various Final Fantasy titles as you progress through the game. This created party offers light RPG elements such as leveling up and unique character abilities. The attraction of placing Terra, Cloud, Tidus, and Vaan in the same party is sure to please any Final Fantasy fan. Delving into the game reveals a varied and enjoyable rhythm game that can be played any number of ways (with the analog stick, with the face buttons, or with the stylus). Add in online multiplayer and you have arguably the most addictive game on the 3DS.
7. New Super Mario Bros. 2
The prevailing thought is that the New Super Mario Bros. formula has gone stale. While the concept is no longer the revelation it was in the DS original from 2006, NSMB2 gives proof to the expression “if it isn’t broken, why fix it?” The reason for the title’s inclusion on this list (beyond the overall enjoyment factor) is how well the design works for portable consoles. The 2D side-scrolling levels offer a good deal of accessible challenge, with each level able to be completed (or failed) within 2 minutes. For commutes or during breaks, this quick-twitch gameplay is ideal. Ten minutes of gameplay can leave you feeling a sense of accomplishment that more in-depth games are unable to replicate in such a short time frame. Crossing a level’s finish line is only the beginning of the challenge, as NSMB2 also offers a variety of collectible items to search for and will provide the completionist with an immense amount of content.
6. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D
Ocarina of Time debuted on the Nintendo 64 in 1998 to universal acclaim; 18-years-later, it remains in contention for the greatest game of all time. Nintendo did a fantastic job updating the graphics for the 3DS remaster, making the world of Hyrule look luscious and deep. However, the more important updates are the changes to the inventory system. Players can now hold four items at a time, with two of them mapped to the 3DS touch screen and two to the system’s face buttons. Meanwhile, the iron boots, an accessory that required time-consuming menu swapping in the N64 original, are now included as an item that can be mapped to a button, alleviating a lot of frustration. The game also includes the difficult Master Quest upon completion, essentially making this title two games in one package. This is how to properly make a remaster of a previously-released game, as nothing has changed drastically; intuitive modern design has simply been implemented with visual bells and whistles on top.
5. Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon
A sequel to the beloved Gamecube launch title, Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon proves Nintendo still offers the best experiences available in gaming. As the titular character, Luigi is the star here and must accomplish his feats without the aid of his brother Mario. This setup offers plenty of Nintendo-branded humor as Luigi, a known coward, constantly references waiting for Mario to come aid him. This is Luigi’s game though and he must be the hero. The mood and pacing in Dark Moon are fantastic. with Luigi frequently humming to himself as he explores creaky mansions. Each level requires you to capture ghosts and there’s a strategy behind every one, especially the boss battles, which demand precise concentration. No object is placed without reason in Dark Moon and the game is difficult but not in an unfair way. This makes the game all the more rewarding to complete and a great addition to any 3DS owner’s library.
4. Kid Icarus: Uprising
Kid Icarus: Uprising can be included on this list solely based on the sheer quality of its voice acting. Nintendo is too often associated with placing an emphasis on gameplay over story elements and are not known for offering tremendous voice acting in their games. Kid Icarus breaks that trend. Fortunately, the game doesn’t forget the gameplay either. However, it is the marriage of the other elements typically found in a quality game that truly elevate this masterpiece to new heights. The voice work rises to a new level for Nintendo, both during cutscenes and gameplay. The plot is detailed, with twists that will repeatedly surprise players. The side-scrolling aerial portions are comparable to the Star Fox series and are a total blast. The game also shifts from on-rails to a 3rd person viewpoint for ground combat, offering variety and clever level design throughout.
3. Super Mario 3D Land
Super Mario 3D Land has without a doubt the best implementation of the 3DS’s 3D functionality to date. This list has not even touched on the beautiful and dynamic depth that the handheld’s 3D effects have on its games, but that’s mostly because while certainly adding to the immersive experience, 3D has remained a secondary feature rather than a main selling point for the 3DS. Super Mario 3D Land is arguably the 3DS game that plays better with the 3D turned on. It is a disservice to play this game on a 2DS, as this game was designed for 3D support thanks its implementation of depth effects in its platforming. This includes judging the distance of a platform that you are landing on and navigating vertical puzzles. The game actually becomes much more difficult with the 3D slider turned down. Super Mario 3D Land showcases and embraces the 3D capabilities of Nintendo’s handheld while proving that 3D gaming can be more than just a gimmick.
2. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
A stunning sequel to the 1991 Super Nintendo classic A Link to the Past, A Link Between Worlds proves that a top-down camera viewpoint still has a place in the Zelda universe. A new item feature where you can rent nearly every item in the game is one of the many intriguing additions here, allowing dungeons to be completed in any order, straying from the linear design that Zelda games typically follow. While some dungeons will be more difficult without certain items, the multiple strategies and routes of each allow them to be completed in many ways and with a different set of items. Another major new element is the ability to merge into walls, thus allowing you to reach new areas. This mechanic adds constant strategic thinking and a variety of new puzzles, which in turn makes for a more rewarding experience and one of the best games in the entire 3DS catalog.
1. Fire Emblem Awakening
The absolute must-own game on the 3DS, Fire Emblem: Awakening proves an accessible game for series newcomers and the best in the series for Fire Emblem veterans. Newcomers are able to avoid the agonizing difficulty level that the series has established in the past with permanent deaths. During Awakening, you can set your characters to return to life after each battle, making the experience much more forgiving and less frustrating. Of course, veterans who prefer the challenge can naturally leave permanent deaths on. Another new feature is the support system, which allows characters to interact on the field, fight in battle together, get married, and eventually have children. This system can be heavily influenced and proper use of the support system is required for progression during the tougher battles, as fighting together has immense statistical benefits. The game will warrant a second playthrough for most players, as there is always something new to witness.