RIP 3DS: Our favourite Nintendo 3DS gamesPlatforms: Nintendo 3DS
Amid all the gaming news of the last few week, Nintendo announced that they were halting production on their handheld console, the Nintendo 3DS.
Released in 2011 as the successor to the Nintendo DS, the 3DS and its various iterations had shifted 75.77 million units as of June 2020, as well as software units sold being in excess of 380 million. As well as being backwards compatible with older DS titles, the eighth-generation console gave gamers the ability to play games with stereoscopic 3D effects, without the need to wear those special glasses. The Switch might have been out for almost four years now, but it still doesn't have a Virtual Console app or Netflix, two things the 3DS has on its younger sibling.
The 3DS was packed full of great games and was well supported by Nintendo - in fact, the top 10 best-selling games on the console were all either a Pokemon or Mario title. While both those franchises are represented below, it's Nintendo's other IP's which dominate our favourite games. I asked the rest of the gaming team for their favourite games on the plucky handheld and the response was fantastic.
Here's what we came up with:
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds picked by Ben Ingham
22 years separate A Link to the Past and its sequel, A Link Between Worlds, which is an extraordinary amount of time when you consider just how fantastic and successful the original game was. Good things come to those who wait it would seem, with this 2013 follow-up to one of the finest games in a series full of critically-acclaimed titles. Nintendo didn't just look back and let nostalgia take over, it would've been easy to create a faithful sequel to ALTTP without taking too many risks, but instead they moved the emphasis onto exploration and giving the player more freedom, something we'd see them expand on in Breath of the Wild. Some of the best puzzles in a Zelda game that we've seen, with the ability to merge into walls being used extensively throughout, along with the ability to tackle dungeons in whatever order we want, this isn't just a great sequel, it's a fantastic game in its own right.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf picked by Georgina Howlett
Animal Crossing: New Leaf is undeniably one of the definitive games of the 3DS era. Having bought it upon release, I played countless hours both at home and on holiday, maintaining my town alone and regularly meeting up with friends. It introduced a vast number of new features - such as Tortimer's Island, public works projects, and swimming in the ocean - and built upon the well-established real-estate and cash-building gameplay loops of the previous instalments in the series. The graphics and hourly soundtracks were vastly superior in comparison to Wild World, and the wealth of multiplayer activities - the island minigames, rare bug-hunting and diving to name but a few - meant that my friends and I never grew tired of visiting each other. The "Welcome Amiibo" update helped to further improve upon and extend the game's longevity, and even since the release of New Horizons on the Switch, there is still merit to revisiting New Leaf from time to time. With a Nintendo Selects' version of the game available, there's no better time to dive in.
Metroid II: Samus Returns picked by Stephen Hudson
The 3DS has a spectacular library of titles, and while Metroid: Samus Returns was not ground-breaking, nor revolutionary, it was exactly what Metroid fans and the series needed following a decade-long drought of 2D titles. Developed by MercurySteam, Metroid: Samus Returns - a remake of Metroid II: The Return of Samus - was an excellent return to form for the series, and it boasted some of the best visuals on the console, in addition to gameplay that managed to capture the essence of 2D Metroid games from the past, but with modern quality-of-life improvements, such as the new Aeion abilities that helped players discover the world’s secrets in ways to conquer the most challenging of enemies. Yes, the controls were a little uncomfortable during long sessions, and the difficulty spikes were brutal to say the least, but for Metroid fans, the game proved that 2D Metroid was back and here to stay.
It may not have sold as well as other entries on this list, but the game represented an opening for a new generation of fans to enjoy the series, whilst providing veteran fans with that 2D Metroid experience they’d been clamouring after for decades. Hopefully, Nintendo won’t wait another decade before releasing another 2D instalment in the franchise.
Super Mario 3D Land picked by David Carcasole
It's not always the case that the first game I purchase for a console ends up being my favourite one of all time for that specific device. This was in fact the case though when I bought Super Mario 3D Land for the 3DS as my very first game for what was, at the time, Nintendo's latest portable device. The platforming, the level design, everything about the game was classic and pure Mario fun. I never owned a Wii or Wii U, so I never got to experience the likes of Super Mario 3D World or Super Mario Galaxy which for me, put Super Mario 3D Land at the top of my list for favourite Mario games of all time. I honestly don't know what I would have done with my 3DS without that game. It kept pulling me back and I just kept having fun, even after I saw credits roll again and again.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time picked by Daisy Treloar
I owe a great debt to my 3DS, considering it was the system that introduced me to The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time – as I was too young to have owned the original on Nintendo 64. Having liked a couple of Link’s GBA and DS adventures well enough, I purchased a copy of OoT’s 3DS release, and the rest is history. It’s no exaggeration that I now count it among one of the greatest games of all time, whilst solidifying my enduring devotion to the series. I’ve bought and loved every single Zelda instalment since (yes, EVEN Skyward Sword). Ocarina of Time’s expansive, semi-open-world gameplay had my mouth dropping continually, as did its memorable cast of characters and sensational soundtrack. I have a vivid memory of lying in bed battling Ganon, utterly mind-blown by the game’s gorgeously epic proportions. Only now do I realise the irony in such a feeling, considering how small the screens were on such a little handheld. You had your flaws, 3DS, but you made a truly lasting impression on me. RIP.
Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS picked by Dani Cross
I remember the excitement I felt when I first got my hands on the 3DS demo for Smash Bros. It only had 5 characters, but it was mind-blowing playing Smash on a handheld. It felt familiar, but at the same time it was an entirely fresh experience. It was released on Wii U later and that version would go on to be the one most people stuck with, but Smash on 3DS was a pretty magical experience for me.
Arguably the stages were better than the Wii U ones, with some really amazing ideas like the Paper Mario stage, Magicant or the Pac Man stage which was leagues ahead of the terrible Pac-Land on Wii U. It controlled really well on the handheld and the host of characters was bigger than anything we’d seen before at that point. It’s a shame the 3DS version doesn’t often get mentioned in discussions about Smash, because it was an absolute blast to play.
Fire Emblem: Awakening picked by Rebuen Mount
I had already been a fan of Fire Emblem before the 3DS rolled around, what with the phenomenal (and now insultingly expensive) Path of Radiance on Gamecube, but Fire Emblem: Awakening was like a turn-based strategy renaissance. By allowing lower difficulties, bringing back the relationship mechanic and removing the feet (?), Intelligent Systems brought Fire Emblem hammering into the mainstream. Plus, I got scarily attached to my “children” in the game so made sure they both had the perfect life partners, and FYI Morgan and Yarne are overpowered as couple.
Pokemon Super Mystery Dungeon picked by Georgina Howlett
Following the mediocre Gates to Infinity, Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon was a breath of fresh air in the well-loved Pokémon Mystery Dungeon franchise. Its story, while simple, was engaging; its characters were well-modelled and designed, and the new mechanics it introduced - including the connection orb recruitment system for the then-all 720 Pokémon - meant that the gameplay was fresh and innovative compared to the previous instalments. Its combat was arguably more accessible and newbie-friendly, though this by no means meant that the game was easier to beat; some dungeons required many, many attempts before progression was possible. For those inclined towards Pokémon in 3D, this is the perfect springboard into this beloved spinoff series, and offers an experience well-worth sinking hours upon hours into.
And there you have it, our favourite games on the 3DS. Even with the fantastic games above, there were some that sadly had to miss out. Special mentions must go to Bravely Default, Shovel Knight, Majora's Mask and Xenoblade Chronicles 3D.
Since 1989 when Nintendo first released their Game Boy, there has always been a home console and a handheld from the Kyoto-based company, with games being developed separately for the two. Despite not being the gaming giant in the home console market that it once was, Nintendo has never really had any serious competition when it came to its handheld consoles, until they made their own direct competitor with the Switch.
It's no surprise that only one game on this list released in a post-Switch world, Metroid: Samus Returns, or that Nintendo chose to end production on the handheld after almost 10 years. All things must come to an end, and if you haven't picked up one of the various iterations of the 3DS by now, it might be too late.