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The Best Nintendo 3DS Games to Play

We break down the ten best games to play on your Nintendo 3DS.


Nintendo has always had a special place in our hearts, but their handheld system is still one of the largest, and amazing libraries that any mobile handheld system has ever offered. With Nintendo favorites like Mario Kart, Legend of Zelda, Super Mario, and even Smash Bros. the Nintendo 3DS is a beast of a system just waiting to suck up all your time. Today we’ve compiled ten of the best games the 3DS has to offer to help you get started on your quest for Nintendo dominance.

Fire Emblem Awakening

Revolving around the usual complex tactical combat, Fire Emblem Awakening also introduces players to the idea of romance between their warriors. Much like the original Fire Emblem games, Fire Emblem Awakening pits players against enemies in turn-based combat where the loss of a fighter is permanent. The new twist this time, however, is that character can fall in love with each other as they fight alongside each other. As they fall in love they can get married and even have children together, mixing several of the key attributes of each parent in the child. Together these components help to craft one of the best strategy games to ever hit Nintendo’s handheld 3D gaming system.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

A Link Between Worlds isn’t just another adventure tale set within the Zelda universe. Instead of simply recreating the Super Nintendo Classic (as they had original planned) Nintendo instead crafted one of the most charming and delightful adventures to hit any game store shelves in many years. Though it might not hold up as visually to the Wii and Wii U Zelda titles, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is a Zelda adventure you don’t want to miss.

Shovel Knight

There are a lot of games going for the retro look these days, but Shovel Knight isn’t just looking to give you those visuals, it’s willing to bring the whole package to the table. Take on the role of the Shovel Knight as you fight through a beautiful 2D side-scrolling adventure that feels like it was pulled straight out of the golden age. Though the genre may be bloated at this point, Shovel Knight is a welcome return and reminder of everything good that 2D side-scrollers have to offer.

Super Mario 3D Land

Much like Super Mario 3D World, which we covered in our Best of Wii U piece, Super Mario 3D Land builds off of the successful 2D side-scrolling style of the older Mario games and then pulls the rub out from under you with a stylish 3D look that helps them feature new puzzles and ways to explore the world. Take on Bowser and his minions in this new 3D side-scrolling as you fight to save Princess Peach once more from the clutches of evil.

Bravely Default

Set within a fantastical world of magic and danger, Bravely Default is a welcome return to the feel of the old-school strategy games that enveloped many of our childhoods. With content as good as some of the greatest Final Fantasy games, Bravely Default is breathtaking, delicately crafted, and provides plenty of content to keep you playing for hundreds of hours. This might be a turn off to some, considering you’re playing it with such a small l device as the 3DS, but to us Bravely Default is still one of the best RPGs to ever hit Nintendo’s handheld systems.

Mario Kart 7

The Mario Kart formula hasn’t been broken for a long time, and the 3DS debut of the popular karting series is another successful notch in Nintendo’s belt. With newly added customization options, key features that tap into the 3DS’ technical features, and the ability to play on the go wherever you are, Mario Kart 7 is a must-have for any Nintendo fans looking to school their friends in some good ole fashioned Mario Karting. With new glider wings, aerial sections, and submersible karts, Mario Kart 7 is the crème de la crème of the portable Mario Kart world.

Majora's Mask 3D

Set a few months after the events of Ocarina of Time, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask is perhaps the darkest tale Nintendo has ever told in the Zelda universe. Set in an alternate land to Hyrule, Termina is under the threat of a falling moon, and Link has only three days to stop it. Fight your way through dungeons that require you to equip special masks which transform you and give you new abilities, all while trying to stop the evil Skullkid from destroying Clock Town and the surrounding regions. Remember not to take too long, after all Termina is already running on borrowed time.

Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS

While the 3DS will never be the chosen platform for fighting game pros, or even competition matches, Nintendo worked hard to bring the brawling, fist punching action of Super Smash Bros. to the handheld system. Featuring the same huge roster as the Wii U version, Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS is a little brother companion to its larger Wii U sibling. Don’t let it fool you though, there is still plenty of action to be had on the 3DS version, and with the New 3DS you can even incorporate your Amiibos into some of the finest battles to ever hit any handheld system.

Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate

Ever dreamed of being a master Monster Hunter? Well now is your change to take on beasts of all shapes and sizes, without ever having to leave your bedroom. Step into the shoes of a Monster Hunter in Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate. Team up with your friends to take on massive beasts, insects, and creatures like you’ve never seen before. Taking the tried and true formula of the series to a whole new level, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate is a fantastic addition to the Monster Hunter family, and a must-have for any hardcore lovers of brutal and challenging games.

Shack Staff stories are a collective effort with multiple staff members contributing. Many of our lists often involve entires from several editors, and our weekly Shack Chat is something we all contribute to as a group. 

From The Chatty
  • reply
    August 4, 2015 1:00 PM

    Shack Staff posted a new article, The Best Nintendo 3DS Games to Play

    • reply
      August 4, 2015 2:25 PM

      Really good timing for this list to come out for me. I was looking for some 3DS games for my sister's birthday next week.

    • reply
      August 4, 2015 2:32 PM

      I'm happy with about 1/2 of those but when it comes to the 3DS I've been awfully against the grain with my tastes so you all are probably right on this one.

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        August 4, 2015 3:16 PM

        What are your top 3DS games?

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          August 4, 2015 3:51 PM

          Well you've already got TLoZ:ALBW, SM3DL, Shove Knight, Bravely Default, MK7, and MHU4. I would probably also put Fantasy Life (&/or Animal Crossing: A New Leaf), Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon, and Professor Layton vs. Pheonix Wright: Ace Attorney. May swap out Bravely Default for Shin Megami Tensei IV as well. Pushmo/Crashmo/Stretchmo vie for a spot as well but right now this is probably my top ten. Xeodrifter and SteamWorld Dig are great as well but two issues (both surrounding bosses, surprisingly) keep them from the top IMO.

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            August 4, 2015 4:14 PM

            Definitely agree on Layton vs Wright and Luigi's Mansion.

            I'd suggest some older ones - RE: Revelations was great on the 3DS, and I've never personally been able to get into Majora's Mask, so the Ocarina overhaul with similarly improved graphics would by my pick.

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              August 5, 2015 11:43 AM

              Never been an RE fan so that's why it doesn't end up on my list and I feel like remakes are cheating, even if they're the definitive version.

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            August 4, 2015 9:34 PM

            Almost everything you mentioned was included in our talks about what to include in this list (Fantasy Life was one of my for sure inclusions, but in the end other things won out).

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              August 5, 2015 11:41 AM

              Yeah, I realize they aren't unliked games but they never seem to fit in the top ten discussion.

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                August 11, 2015 10:25 AM

                Yeah. :/ Well these were based around everyone on staff who plays the 3DS. Had it just been one person choosing several things would have been different.

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      August 4, 2015 4:10 PM

      Luigi's Mansion...? Anyone? I've only played two 3ds games in my entire life because bravely default is taking so long to finish (150hrs and still going!!! But it's good. I hate it, but love it at the same time) but I remember reading nothing but good things about Luigi's Mansion when it was released.

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      August 4, 2015 8:04 PM

      Disregard my other comment.- F BRAVELY DEFAULT!!! Seriously, I wouldn't recommend this POS to anybody. They need to rename it-"Groundhog Day: The Game" is so much more appropriate. That might be spoiler-ish info, but I feel like people need to know what they're in for. Sorry...had to vent. Just reached a point in the game where I'm just done. DO NOT BUY IT WITH THE INTENT OF FINISHING IT UNLESS YOU DON'T EVER WANT TO PLAY ANOTHER GAME EVER AGAIN. It's only fun until the game just laughs in your face at all the time you invested, and all you thought you accomplished. I spent hours, lvling each job, reading the journal, clearing the world map, etc..., and then poof! RESTART! RESTART AGAIN! How is this fun????

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      August 5, 2015 1:01 AM

      again a nice short list. Fire Enblem is a fantastic game, wish they would go back to Advance Wars though. I am replaying the AW series on my WiiU right now, the controller is perfect for it.

      End of the week I'll get Bravely Default, Xenoblade and Ocarina for my n3ds. That system rocks. Like the WiiU I thought I'd skip it this gen but those are top notch titles. I don't know how I'm supposed to find time for Fire Enblem: IF later this year as well ;P

      btw why did you change the format to youtube for the other platforms?

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